Horses For Courses: Auroras’ welfare is all that matters to emotional Mania

BATTLE: Ryan Mania, left, and trainer Sue Smith, right, are praying over the health of Auroras Encore, centre.

BATTLE: Ryan Mania, left, and trainer Sue Smith, right, are praying over the health of Auroras Encore, centre.

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Auroras Encore had a comfortable night following an operation to repair a fracture in his leg, with his Aintree partner Ryan Mania conceding Yorkshire’s now-retired Grand National hero has been the “only thing I’ve thought about”.

A shock 66-1 winner of the world’s greatest steeplechase last April, Sue Smith’s High Eldwick-based gelding returned from running at Doncaster last weekend with an injury that has finished his career. He underwent an operation on Tuesday afternoon and while that was a success, Mania is hoping for more good news later in the week.

“For the past two days he has been the only thing I’ve thought about,” said Mania, 24, who was catapulted into the limelight when steering Auroras Encore to a nine-length verdict over Cappa Bleu.

“I haven’t been thinking ‘oh no, there goes my ride in the National’ – I just want him to be okay.

“He came through the operation okay and it will be good to get him home. He’s going the right way, thankfully, and now all we can do is hope he keeps improving. He’s a hardy old bugger, so he’ll keep fighting. The next couple of days will be crucial.

“I still can’t believe I won the National, every time I see it I think it’s somebody else. Nobody can ever take it away from us. He owes nobody anything and now I just hope he gets to enjoy his retirement.”

Racing keeps its fingers crossed that last year’s Grand National hero makes a full recovery with news of the horse’s progress co-inciding with yesterday’s unveiling of this April’s entries.

In total, 115 entries, the highest since 2009, have been attracted to the first £1million Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on April 5. After the defection of Auroras Encore, Smith has two more horses entered in Mr Moonshine and Vintage Star.

Neither is among the market leaders with Vintage Star 40s and Mr Moonshine 50s. Vintage Star is owned by Trevor Hemmings – seeking his third Grand National winner after Hedgehunter in 2005 and Ballabriggs six years later.

Mr Moonshine, meanwhile, represents last year’s owners Douglas Pryde, Jim Beaumont and David van der Hoeven.

Other Yorkshire representation could come from David O’Meara’s Nawton-based Rose Of The Moon, Malcolm Jefferson’s Malton hope Cape Tribulation and Keith Reveley’s Saltburn-stabled Night In Milan.

Rose Of The Moon and Cape Tribulation can be backed at 66-1 with Night In Milan available at 80s.

Only two of the first six home last year have entries this time – the third Teaforthree, trained by Rebecca Curtis, and the sixth, David Pipe’s Swing Bill, owned by Halewood International, parent company of sponsors Crabbie’s.

The betting is generally headed by Nicky Henderson’s Hennessy Gold Cup victor Triolo D’Alene.

He is the outright 16-1 favourite with Boylesports with the seven-year-old having already scored over the National fences having won last year’s Topham Chase.

At this stage, he could be the one to be on though of main concern at present is the welfare of last year’s winner.